By BRIAN LESTER
The Matchup: University of Findlay vs. Northwestern (Ohio) at Croy Gymnasium in Findlay, Ohio. Game time set for 3 p.m.
Records: Oilers are 7-2 overall and ranked No. 24 in the nation. Racers are 8-5.
Series: UF leads 1-0. Oilers beat Racers 80-59 during the 2008-09 NCAA Division II national championship season.
Last Time Out: UF capped their pre-Christmas schedule with a hard-fought 64-60 win over rival Grand Valley State on Dec. 17 at Croy Gymnasium.
Greg Kahlig scored 14 points and Brad Piehl added 13 points as the Oilers survived a physical Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference battle against GVSU.
The Oilers shot just 34.8 percent from the field but stepped up defensively down the stretch to secure the win. UF held a 31-30 edge on the boards and forced 19 turnovers.
UNO defeated Presentation College 73-69 on Dec. 21 in a tournament in Las Vegas. The Racers shot 48.2 percent from the field and got 20 points and nine rebounds from Derrick Tate. Blake Bush added 17 points and eight rebounds.
The Racers trailed 38-35 at the half before rallying for their second consecutive win.
Scouting the Opponent: UNO has won six of its last seven games and has a team with seven junior college transfers.
The Racers average 73.3 points per outing and allow 68.2. They are shooting 44.5 percent from the floor and 32.8 percent from beyond the arc. UNO is holding opponents to 42.5 percent shooting from the field and 32.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Tate, a junior forward, leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game. He is pulling down 5.2 rebounds per game as well and has tallied 20 steals.
Bush is clicking for 13.8 ppg and has knocked down 20 treys. He is also grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game and has racked up 22 steals.
Junior guard Johnny Elliott (11.5 ppg, 18 3-pointers) and freshman point guard Josh Scott (6.8 ppg, 51 assists) have been key contributors as well.
The Racers, who have six players averaging six or more points per contest, average 16.2 turnovers per game and force 17.2 turnovers per outing.
One to Watch: Jack Smith is capable of a big game on any given day, and with UNO featuring solid players in the post, this could be a game where the veteran bench player for the Oilers could shine.
Smith brings a lot of energy to the team and his versatility is one of his strengths. Smith is averaging 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game and has also tallied nine steals.
He doesn’t need to be the leading scorer against the Racers, but a solid performance from Smith will go a long way in helping the Oilers earn what should be a convincing victory.
Around the GLIAC: Ohio Christian at Ashland; Ohio Dominican at Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Michigan Tech at Wisconsin-Parkside; Ohio Mid-Western at Walsh. Check out the GLIAC hoops page for more information.
My Thoughts: Break time is over for the Oilers as they return from time off over Christmas to battle UNO in their final nonconference game of the regular season.
UF should win this game easily if it shows up ready to play and doesn’t have a problem shaking off the rust in what will be its first game in 12 days.
The key for the Oilers is to play hard from start to finish and not allow themselves to play down to the compettion. They need to use this game as an opportunity to push themselves from an effort standpoint and fine tune the little things because every game from here on out will be a challenge.
UF will play eight of its next 11 on the road and will be tested every step of the way as it takes aim at a conference championship.
The Oilers have to be able to contain Tate and Bush. Those two have been vital to the success of the Racers and slowing them down will put UF in a position for a comfortable win.
Rebounding will play a role in this game as well. UNO is averaging 36.7 rebounds per game and will play physical, which means UF has to match that intensity and physicality and not allow the Racers to get extra possessions.
As long as the Oilers show up and play their style of basketball, especially early on, they won’t have any trouble getting their eighth win of the season.
I’ll have more when I arrive at the gym. You can also follow me on Twitter for updates as well at @BLester1993. Enjoy the game everyone.
Update: And that is a wrap. The Oilers wrap up their nonconference schedule with a 74-38 win over Northwestern and now head into a tough stretch of games in January. The GLIAC grind resumes with a battle against Saginaw Valley State next Thursday on the road. I’ll see you then with coverage from the Ryder Center.
Update: Oilers own a 68-36 lead with 4:59 to go in the game. UF has played hard from the opening tip and a lot of players have seen time on the floor today. This was the kind of game the Oilers needed as they get set for the grind of the GLIAC schedule. Eight of the next 11 on the road is going to require this team to dig deep as it takes aim at a conference title.
Update: Greg Kahlig has scored seven consecutive points and the Oilers have extended their lead to 65-32 over the Racers.
Update: Oilers haven’t let up here in the second half and lead 58-29 with 9:09 to go in the game. A great all-around effort by UF today against a team it was expected to beat with ease.
Update: Dylan Kaufman has provided a big lift for the Oilers today, not only as a shooter but as a defender as well. He hustles so hard and he will be a difference maker for this team for the next four years. UF leads 50-25 with 12:07 to go in the game.
Update: Oilers have a 45-23 lead with 14:12 to go in the second half. UF still playing hard on defense and I like the Brad Piehl continues to attack the basket and work for shots. He is playing like a senior should at this time of the year.
Update: UF looked sharp most of the first half and really did a good job defensively as it hounded the Racers. The Oilers were also aggressive on offense and they head into halftime with a 36-18 advantage. There was a concern about how the holiday break would affect the Oilers but it doesn’t look like it has bothered them at all.
Update: Defense has been a big story for the Oilers in this game. They have played hard since the opening tip and have a 33-16 lead with 2:41 to go in the opening half.
Update: If you want an idea of how aggressive the Oilers are playing. Both teams were battling for a loose ball and Alphonso Baity finally came up with a steal and took off for an easy layup to stretch the UF lead to 27-13 with 4:57 to go in the half.
Update: Dylan Kaufman has come alive early, drilling two 3-pointers to help the Oilers stretch their lead to 20-7 against the Racers. Mark Frilling has been tough for UNO to deal with in the paint, both as a scorer and rebounder, and UF continues to play aggressive on the defensive end of the floor.
Update: Oilers have looked sharp early on despite coming off of a holiday break. Brad Piehl has been aggressive in the paint and UF has done a good job of running its offense. Oilers have also been aggressive on defense and are out in front 12-3 with 14:58 left in the opening half.
Update: Here we go UF fans. It’s time for the Oilers to play basketball.
Update: This is a game where UF needs to take control early. It doesn’t want UNO building up any kind of hope that it can compete in this game. Oilers need to be able to shoot the ball well early on and defend hard to set the tone.
Update: Oilers are playing their final game of 2012 today and this is an opportunity for them to get back on track after the holiday break and fine tune everything for conference play.
UF faces a tough stretch ahead with eight of its next 11 on the road and it’s important for it to g3et the job done here today.
Update: I am at Croy Gymnasium as the Oilers will battle later today in the final game of 2012. You can check out my game preview right here: http://www.thecourier.com/Issues/2012/Dec/29/ar_sports_122912_story3.asp?d=122912_story3,2012,Dec,29&c=s. I’ll have more on the game later today.